WASTE-TO-ENERGY NEWS
WTE Recognized as Renewable in President Obama's Latest Executive Order

President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order that defines waste-to-energy as a renewable energy source. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies. The Executive Order builds on and expands the energy reduction and environmental requirements of Executive Order 13423 (which also defined waste-to-energy as renewable) by making reductions of greenhouse gas emissions a priority of the Federal government. This new Executive Order provides another leading example of waste-to-energy receiving broad support as renewable.

Why Burning Garbage is the Best Option

The Vancouver Sun published an excellent article entitled "Why Burning Garbage is the Best Option" written by Mayor Lois E. Jackson of Delta, British Columbia, who also serves as the chairwoman of the Metro Vancouver board of directors.  The Mayor states that independent advice provided to the Board suggests a modern waste-to-energy facility which generates heat and electricity from the combustion of garbage is the best way to dispose of the trash we can't recycle.  Metro Vancouver is currently considering construction of six new waste-to-energy plants to manage the waste currently going to landfills.  Mayor Jackson asserts unequivocally that, "Unlike landfills, air emissions from waste-to-energy facilities can be continuously monitored and regulated. Our air emissions would remain the same or become even smaller with waste-to-energy.  Waste-to-energy is also the best option for reducing the gases that cause global warming."

EPA Credits Waste-to-Energy and Recycling and with GHG savings

The EPA published a report linking waste-to-energy and other materials management practices such as recycling to a reduction in the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The September 2009 report, entitled
"Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices," highlights examples of how materials and land-management activities by the EPA, states, local governments and stakeholders have led to a significant reduction in GHG emissions. Examples include:

  • Waste-to-energy recovery systems that combusted 31.4 million tons of MSW resulted in the avoidance of 17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG emissions in 2006.
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling in 2006 resulted in the avoidance of nearly 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG emissions.
  • EPA WasteWise partners reported source reduction and recycling activities which resulted in an avoidance of 27 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent GHG emissions in 2005.

This latest EPA report confirms what numerous studies have shown over the years, namely that waste-to-energy reduces GHG emissions and that it is compatible with recycling.  It is also one of the key factors why groups such as the World Economic Forum listed waste-to-energy as one of the Eight Emerging Large-Scale Clean Energy Sectors in its Davos Report.

British Research Concludes that Waste-to-Energy Does Not Pose Risk to Health

Modern, well-run and regulated waste-to-energy facilities do not pose a significant threat to public health, according to research published by the British government-backed Health Protection Agency (HPA). In its report, which reviews the latest scientific evidence on the health effects of modern municipal waste-to-energy facilties, the HPA concludes that any potential damage from facilities is likely to be so small that it would be undetectable.

Commenting on the report's conclusions, a spokesman for the HPA said: "The evidence suggests that air pollution from incinerators makes up a fraction of 1% of the country's particulate emissions. Industry and traffic account for more than 50%. "European Union Directives aimed at minimizing landfill are leading to an increased use of incineration, and research suggests that this will not cause any significant adverse health effects. The report cites evidence from the Department of Health-affiliated Committee on Carcinogencicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, which concluded that any potential risk of cancer due to living near a municipal waste incinerator was "exceedingly low", and probably not measurable by most modern techniques.

Harnessing the Energy of Trash

Alyssa Lappen penned an article for inFOCUS magazine entitled "Harnessing Energy from Trash" in which she advocates for implementing policies in the United States that would utilize the currently untapped energy potential in our trash.  The rest of the world has jumped ahead of the United States in terms of harnessing the energy in waste and Lappen urges the U.S. to catch up.  The Energy Recovery Council wholeheartedly agrees.  The ERC believes lawmakers and policymakers must recognize that the combustion of municipal solid waste produces clean, renewable, and climate-friendly energy.  Policies that provide the appropriate incentives for waste-to-energy will promote energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support the communities that rely on this important technology.